Posts tagged documentary commentary
DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Asking someone if they subscribe to the science of climate change might as well be as tenuous as asking a person if they believe in God.  Climate change has become a divisive firebrand topic like few others in the decade since the Oscar-winning and punctually motivating documentary An Inconvenient Truth.  In several ways, the topic has come a long way in some places only to slip backward in other measures.  An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a persuasive update on the matter.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Score: A Film Music Documentary

This writer is an unabashed film music lover.  I owned more film score CDs than ones of popular music back in the day and that ratio hasn’t changed with digital media.  Hell, I wrote a long-form editorial three years ago proclaiming film music as an improvement of the Mozart Effect for babies and children which led to a playlist afterwards that I still use to this day.  I am a mark for what Score: A Film Music Documentary was selling and many of the names and talents featured in the film are found on that personal playlist.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Faith in the Big House

No matter what faith (or absence of faith) you carry into this film’s experience, you will respect the positive efforts of the real-life ministries featured in “Faith in the Big House.”  Lives are changed before your eyes and it’s not all Bible-thumping.  To that end, it is wholly refreshing to observe a Christian point-of-view that holds its peers of different denominations and, more importantly, itself strictly accountable for this kind of communal service.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: I Am Not Your Negro

The documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” from director Raoul Peck unearths “Remember This House,” an unfinished 1979 manuscript of the James Baldwin’s recollections of Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin.  This outstanding and informative film presents Baldwin’s musings alongside sobering imagery of both the turbulent history of the era and parallel occurrences of modern racial unrest that echo the same violence, inequality, anger, and sorrow.  As an Oscar nominee in a banner year for feature documentaries, “I Am Your Negro” is essential viewing.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: The Lark's View

Ireland is a proud country where a pagan history has been blended with Christianity for two millennia.  Mythology has merged with scripture and history has absorbed legend.  “The Lark’s View” is a documentary reflecting the current and lost traditions on the century anniversary of the significant Easter Rising conflict of 1916.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: A Doctor's Sword

A masterfully powerful documentary, “A Doctor’s Sword,” chronicling the reflective and jarring tale of Irish World War II veteran Aidan MacCarthy, recently played as part of the second annual Irish American Movie Hooley at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.  One half of this fine film is an astounding you-wouldn't-believe-it-if-I-told-you true story of World War II survival that would make "Unbroken" look like a nursery rhyme.  Its calmer other half takes place in a present day where two proud families and two proud countries are forever bonded by shared history.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley

The second annual Irish American Movie Hooley at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago.  Presented by 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey and produced by Hibernian Transmedia, the spirited mini-festival has a slate of three films, two making their Chicago premieres between September 30 and October 2.  This very writer and website was privy to viewing and reviewing this year’s Irish American Movie Hooley selections in advance.  Here are my capsule reviews and recommendations.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Leave it to renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog to hit you with a buffet's worth of food for thought.  His musings on the origins of the internet and its growing ramifications, both positive and negative, on this modern world are sternly served in his new documentary "Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World."  Scintillating one minute and sobering the next, this film is required viewing for anyone who has seen how far we've come with connectivity and wonders fearfully just how high this Icarus of technology can fly towards the Sun before it melts and crashes back to Earth. 

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

The adjectives "titan" and "humble" are not commonly found together.  Famed television producer Norman Lear is an iconoclast in every way.  His successful shows and the waves they created are forever chiseled into that industry.  Away from the his seat as a creative czar, the man remained a hard-working and vigilant self-made man of activism and integrity.  In his 90s, Lear has crossed unimaginable measures of impact and history.  The new documentary "Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You" stylishly chronicles his vast contributions.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Life, Animated

This website has been moralizing for six years now its central message that "every movie has a lesson."  As an educator, it is something that I firmly believe and stand by with every possible film, good or bad.  I don't think, in all of my years of movie-going, I have ever seen a more real, living and breathing example of the power and magic of my website's theme than in the compelling and emotional new documentary "Life, Animated."  A story like this is why I write.  If that message speaks to you, go find "Life, Animated" immediately.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza

"June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza" presents an international alternative to the Scared Straight programs that have become a fascination here in the United States.  No, not this one (though enjoy a quick laugh), but prison initiatives like those chronicled in A&E's popular "Beyond Scared Straight: Success Stories.  Rather than bombard subjects and audiences with fear, one man in Japan finds faith to be the greater answer.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Amy

Filmmaker Asif Kapadia captures the bracing and startling rise and fall of the late jazz singer Amy Winehouse in "Amy."  Accessing an enormous wealth of old videos from friends and family, self-read letters of lyrics and songwriting, archived phone conversations, backstage footage, media appearances, and unreleased performances, "Amy" weaves a masterful and compelling narrative.  It is on the 2016 Oscar short-list for Best Documentary Feature and is available now for home viewing.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Hitchcock/Truffaut

Picture your personal influences, either worshiped or admired, and imagine being granted the opportunity to have a conversation with them.  What would you talk about?  What would you ask them?  How would it change you?  In the world of cinema, such a conversation happened between a then-neophyte auteur Francois Truffaut and the aging master Alfred Hitchock in 1962.  Their documented meeting has gone on to inspire generations of future filmmakers and cinephiles.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Motley's Law

51st Chicago International Film Festival special presentation

In this writer's opinion, documentary films are at their strongest when they merge two symbiotic pairs of traits.  A good documentary and its human interest story merges truth with its narrative.  Secondly, a good documentary merges its overarching message with art.  Any of those four ingredients alone are not enough.  In the documentary genre, a narrative without truth defeats its nonfiction purpose and the central message being delivered needs the artistic touch requisite to its chosen medium of cinema.  As long as it can achieve those two mergers, a successful documentary can take any subject and give it proper focus.

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